With Batman and Bruce Wayne out of town, Barbara Gordon would seem to be in some trouble after she gets abducted in Neo-Gotham’s crime-ridden Crown Point. But it turns out Terry McGinnis isn’t the only hero roaming the city as we find in this week’s BATMAN BEYOND #12, which focuses on the Batgirl of the future who finds herself teaming up with Terry’s best friend, Max. Co-written by guest writers Steve Orlando and Vita Ayala and drawn by Siya Oum, it’s an exciting interlude that expands the Batman Beyond universe in compelling new ways. Before we get to our exclusive preview of the issue, though, we thought we’d ask the two writers a few questions about how the whole thing came together, what Nissa’s role is within the greater story, and whether we’ll be seeing more collaborations between Batgirl, Max and Barbara Gordon in the future.

So how did this collaboration come together? Have either of you worked on Batman Beyond before?

Vita Ayala: Steve and I have worked together in the past (always an honor). I am sure he has heard me wax poetic about my love for Max Gibson, and an older Commissioner Barbara Gordon, though I had never had the pleasure of working on a story with them in it. He messaged me wanting to know if he had the chance to do a story for the Batman Beyond universe, would I be interested, and I couldn't reply fast enough at the chance to do it and even better, work with him again. 

Steve Orlando: We haven't worked on Batman Beyond! But we've worked together before, on the DC HOLIDAY SPECIAL, and had an amazing time doing it! So when the opportunity to add to the world, to visit the world of Batman Beyond came up, I immediately seized the chance to work with Vita again. They're extremely passionate about the Beyond world and Nissa, Batgirl Beyond, as well. And that enthusiasm was immediately infectious.

What can you tell us about Nissa, the Batgirl of Neo-Gotham?

Vita: Nissa—whom I have adored since her first appearance—is the perfect Neo-Gotham successor to the Batgirl cowl. She rose to prominence during the riots in her neighborhood—Crown Point, or as I call it, the South Bronx of Gotham City—when she decided that since no one cared about her community, she would take it upon herself to protect her people. And she did, with style and wit. She's a person of color, and a young teen, and not really about listening to excuses or wasting time on nonsense. She is also a wonderful foil for Barbara, who deserves her own baby Bat to crack wise at.

STEVE: I think Vita pitched this better than I ever could. To me, Nissa is a great icon for a community fighting to protect themselves, to better their station and make safe the lives of the people they know. These are the people most downtrodden by the power structures. This is a Batgirl that fights for the most victimized, fighting for justice and freedom block by block. That dedication, that underdog fight, is one I could not ignore.

For people who might not remember, this isn’t the first time we’re seeing Nissa, right? Where did she come from?

Vita: Nissa, as far as I know, first showed up in BATMAN BEYOND UNLIMITED #18. Her origin issue is amazing.

This story also sees Max jumping into action, which seems like a pretty big step for her. Do you think it represents a turning point for her?

Steve: I think it does! I think it stands for the idea in all of us, the drive in all of us. When you get right down to it, we want to feel active, we want to enter the world, not sit on the sidelines. For someone like Max, we felt that it would only be a matter of time before she took things into her own hands, because it’s HER hands that best understand some fights, some communities, even better than Terry and Bruce. And she would know it empowers them to see someone from their own world as a hero, standing up for them, and fighting on their side.

Vita: In the Unlimited series, she was thrown into her fair share of action, too, but having her make the decision to suit up definitely signals what has always been true—Max Gibson is ready, willing and able to step up to the plate and swing, whenever and however is needed. 

This story also leaves off with the suggestion that we may see more team-ups between Batgirl and Max in the future, possibly also with the assistance of Barbara Gordon. Are we seeing the beginning of Birds of Prey Beyond?

Vita: My dream book for the Batman Beyond Universe has always been Neo-Birds of Prey. This goes back to when the show was airing. This is no secret to anyone, of course, as I am a huge fan of both the original Birds of Prey series and of girl gang-style team ups. I have evangelized about the idea of a Max/Nissa/Commissioner Gordon team since the first appearance of Batgirl Beyond. I hope that, going forward, these three ladies (as well as other ladies in that universe) get the chance to show the world that there is always a place for the Birds of Prey. 

Steve: I would love that! The goal for any of my DCU work, and that includes co-writing, is to bring new elements to the greater DC Universe. To be additive. To plant seeds that, even if I don't germinate them, someone could. We leave the potential for more with every story we tell, we share that potential, that rich possibility. So, with the Birds of Prey Beyond, this is something that was certainly on our minds, Vita and I, and it's something we think would be exciting! Whether we pick it up, or someone else does, I think it would enrich the DCU for the better with its presence.

Finally, what do you think Bruce and Terry will think of all of this when they return?

Vita: I think Terry will worry about Max running around without suited backup, but will also feel that the city was in good hands. He would probably bristle at the idea that there was a young teen running around with the symbol, making herself a target with no help. Max wouldn't have to work too hard to bring him around on supporting Nissa rather than trying to stop her, though.

I think Bruce will huff and puff, but be proud of Max. He would be annoyed that Barbara never told him about Nissa, but secretly impressed with her gumption. (Nissa is exactly the sort of kid that would end up in the Bat Family.) I bet he would get the specs for her suit and quietly make upgrades so that when she comes around, she will be better protected (since he has been at this long enough to know she wouldn't be quitting).

Steve: Bruce, in his way, would likely always worry. He is someone who always wants to put responsibility, and risk, on himself. But Batman Beyond has been and always will be about him fighting to move past that notion. I think he'd come around to being impressed with Nissa and Max's initiative. Terry? I think his initial reaction would be even MORE worry, because he's younger and more emotional than Bruce. But being so close to Max, and being more idealistic than Bruce, I think it wouldn't be long until his worry gave way to pride—both for Max, and for Nissa, for taking up their own fight for justice.

Enjoy this first look at Batman Beyond #12:

BATMAN BEYOND #12 by Vita Ayala, Steve Orlando, Siya Oum, Dexter Vines and Tony Aviña is in stores this Wednesday.